THOUSANDS of vulnerable people across 1066 Country are failing to protect themselves against flu this winter.
The most recent census shows there are currently almost 20,000 pensioners living in Hastings and St Leonards - all of whom qualify for a free vaccination against seasonal bugs.
However, statistics released this week by NHS Hastings and Rother - which works with local GP surgeries - showed that only 45 per cent of people aged 65 or over have taken up the offer of a jab.
That figure is down from last year, when 48 per cent of that bracket received a vaccination.
And there is an even lower uptake among locals deemed vulnerable to winter flu or swine flu - such as those suffering from asthma, heart disease, diabetes or other similar conditions.
Just 26 per cent of people offered a jab under 65 have had one - again down on last year’s total of 28 per cent.
This despite the fact that 2009 saw a serious bout of seasonal flu, and now NHS bosses are worried the town is sitting on a ticking flu time bomb.
Diana Grice, head of public health at NHS Hastings and Rother, urged people to accept a jab - which protects against both swine flu and winter flu - if offered one.
She said: “Flu is not the same as getting a cold. It can seriously affect your health and the risks of developing complications are far greater if you have certain pre-existing medical conditions.
“We don’t know how serious flu will be this winter. But we do know that by encouraging everyone who is offered the vaccine to have it, we can make sure that those most vulnerable are protected.
“People should not be concerned or put off by the vaccine containing protection against swine flu. This is completely safe and the jab will not give you swine flu. It will only protect you.
Ms Grice continued: “My advice to everyone who is eligible is to visit your local GP surgery and get the vaccination as soon as possible. This is the best form of protection for you and others.”